Outfielder Kim Hyun-Soo of Korea flies out in the second inning during the World Baseball Classic exhibition game between Korea and Hanshin Tigers at Kyocera Dome Osaka on March 7, 2023 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
The Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League is the highest level of professional baseball in South Korea. South Korea has produced 28 Major League Baseball players, including first basemen Ji-Man Choi, pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Ryu was an MLB All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2019, and Choo was an MLB All-Star with the Texas Rangers in 2018.
The 2023 KBO All-Star Game was held on Friday, July 15, in a matchup between the Nanum All-Stars and the Dream All-Stars. The Nanum All-Stars defeated the Dream All-Stars 8-4 in nine innings at Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan, South Korea.
There was plenty of talent at this year’s KBO All-Star Game. Let’s look at four All-Stars to keep an eye out for during the remainder of the KBO season.
Kim Hyun-Soo, OF, LG Twins
Kim Hyun-Soo was a 2023 KBO All-Star for the Nanum All-Stars. He went hitless in the contest but has been one of the top KBO players in the past decade. Kim batted .328 and hit 28 home runs in 2015 for the Doosan Bears, earning him a contract with the Baltimore Orioles in 2016. He played parts of two years with the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies and hit a combined seven home runs with a .719 OPS. Kim competed in the 2023 World Baseball Classic for Korea and had a .111 batting average in nine plate appearances.
Kim Won-Jung, RP, Lotte Giants
Kim Won-Jung is a relief pitcher for the Lotte Giants and was on the Dream All-Stars. He pitched one inning in the game, struck out one, and allowed one hit. This season in 35 innings, he has allowed only one home run and has 41 strikeouts. Jung began his professional career with the Giants as a starting pitcher, but has since transitioned to the bullpen. He has a 2.38 ERA this season, and has recorded 16 saves. Jung set a career-high in strikeouts per nine innings in 2022 with 12.6. Like Hyun Soo-Kim, Jung played for Korea in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Chae Eun-Seong, 1B, Hanwha Eagles
Chae Eun-Seong is a first baseman for the Hanwha Eagles and was voted MVP of the 2023 KBO All-Star Game. He had five RBI in the contest including a grand slam in the bottom of the fourth inning. Seong spent the first nine years of his KBO career with the LG Twins, and is hitting .291 in his first season with the Hanwha Eagles. He is currently fourteenth amongst all KBO players in OPS (.820) this season. Seong will need to keep his hot streak going if the Eagles (34-40) want to secure a spot in the playoffs. Hanwha is 12.5 games back from the first place LG Twins.
Austin Dean, OF, LG Twins
Austin Dean played five years in Major League Baseball with the Miami Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals, and San Francisco Giants. He is batting .300 with eleven home runs and a .837 OPS in his first season with the LG Twins. Dean went two-for-two as a member of the Nanum All-Stars, but neither hit produced an RBI. He made his MLB debut in 2018 with the Miami Marlins, and played a career-high 64 games in 2019. Dean was limited to 28 games of big league play over the next three years, and signed with the LG Twins during the offseason.
The Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League can be viewed on the applications and websites Naver TV, Kakao TV, AfreecaTV, and Bwintv.net.